Beihai Park is Beijing’s tranquil inner-city oasis with shady trees, ever-changing flower exhibits and sacred buildings. This is one of the finest, and largest, examples of inner-city Chinese imperial gardens. Beihai mimics varying landscapes from different regions of China, so a visit here will give you a sense of the country’s diverse scenery in just a few hours.
Beihai Park was first built during the Liao Dynasty in the 10th century. Subsequent emperors have added to it. Most of the surviving buildings were erected under the reign of Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, which ended just over 100 years ago.
Explore the meticulously maintained grounds of this historical royal park. Walk or cycle around the botanical gardens, enter centuries-old temples and pavilions, and watch locals as they exercise or play. They often also sing and dance for the gathering crowds. In winter, the ice-skating rink is fun for children.
Beihai is Mandarin for “North Sea” and more than half of the park is a lake. Rent a boat from one of the park’s piers to circle the man-made islets. On Jade Flowery Islet, admire the park’s famous landmark: A 1651 Tibetan shrine known as the White Dagoba. Cross the Doushan Bridge to the eastern shore and admire the Painted Boat Studio and the idyllic Hao Pu Creek Garden.
Don’t miss the eye-catching Nine-Dragon Wall on the northern shore of the lake. In the park’s southwestern corner, visit the Circular City with its large stone walls, towers, pavilions and Buddha statue.
Beihai Park is located in the Xicheng District, just northwest of the Forbidden City. The public park, which has on-site restaurants, is open daily. The park is open longer after dark in spring and summer. There is a small admission fee.
Get to the park on foot, or by bike or public transport. You can hire an English-speaking tour guide to take you there. Just outside the northern gate is a bike rental outlet.